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Does a Baby Tooth Need to Be Extracted When It Is Loose?

By Natalie Smith, Ph.D. ; Updated June 13, 2017

When you were a child, you may have eagerly anticipated having a loose tooth. Loosing your baby teeth was both a rite of passage and a way to make some spending money from the tooth fairy. Now that you have children, you might have heard that pulling baby teeth is not always a good idea.

When you were a child, you may have eagerly anticipated having a loose tooth. Loosing your baby teeth was both a rite of passage and a way to make some spending money from the tooth fairy. Now that you have children, you might have heard that pulling baby teeth is not always a good idea. Dentists now advocate that you leave teeth alone until they are ready to fall out naturally.

Reasons to Leave Baby Teeth

Baby teeth aren't just disposable teeth that can be extracted whenever they are loose. These teeth are important for many reasons. Baby teeth help your child chew and help her develop proper speech. Most importantly, your child's baby teeth are replaced with the corresponding adult teeth. A loose tooth is not necessarily ready to come out yet. If you pull a tooth too soon, the adult tooth may not be ready to come in yet, and the other existing teeth might slide into the spot. This can cause the permanent teeth not to come in correctly.

When to Extract

When a tooth is hanging by a thread or is so loose that you fear that your child might swallow it during eating, it is generally safe to extract. You can extract the tooth on your own. If the tooth is very rotten, a dentist might elect to extract it or to fill it or cap it with a crown. Do not try to extract a rotten tooth by yourself as it might break apart or be abscessed and need additional attention.

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How to Extract

Letting your child wiggle the tooth out might save energy and grief. He may resist your efforts to remove the tooth because of the pain, and letting him do it will reduce the stress and pain he will experience. Have your child wiggle the tooth with his clean fingers or tongue, or gently wiggle it with your fingers until it comes out. Hold clean gauze on the open hole until the bleeding stops.

When to Consult a Dentist

When a permanent tooth is erupting before its corresponding baby tooth is loose enough to come out, consult a dentist. The dentist may decide to extract the baby tooth to make room for the permanent tooth, or she may leave it if pulling the baby tooth won't alleviate the crowding. If the baby tooth is rotten, broken or damaged, let the dentist remove it or treat it rather than remove it yourself. If the tooth is abscessed or if your child is experiencing problems with his gums, consult a dentist.

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